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30 Days of Grad: ASU Preparatory Academy

ASU Preparatory Academy is celebrating its first class of graduates this year. The school, which is operated by Arizona State University, opened a campus in downtown Phoenix as a middle school in 2008 and has since expanded to include grades K-12.

The school’s first graduating class of 131 students received their diplomas on May 28, and earned a total of $2 million in college scholarships. When asked about what it meant to be a part of the first class of graduates, the school’s valedictorian Dwayne Martin said that he is “proud and humbled.” “I hope that I can be an example for all of the classes to come,” he said.

All of the graduates will either go to college or into military service. In all, 76 percent of the graduates were accepted to four-year institutions.

Read more about these graduates and their alma mater in this AZCentral article that further profiles their tremendous successes.

ASU Preparatory Academy

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30 Days of Grad: Carlos Rosario Charter School

Over the past 40 plus years, the Carlos Rosario School in Washington, D.C. has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants by investing in and supporting their journey to achieve the American Dream. The school combines award-winning education, life skills programs, and support services to create a holistic experience. Learn about three of their graduates this year below:

Victor

Victor is a current culinary arts career training academy student planning to graduate next month. Victor, originally from El Salvador, started at the school in 2012 with a basic level of English. He has since received his food handler’s license, has taken five semesters of English, and will graduate from the school’s culinary arts program. Victor was recently promoted to head chef at Commissary restaurant in D.C. where he is putting his skills to work every day in the kitchen.

Victor

Gloria is from El Salvador and arrived to Washington, D.C. in 1991. She first started school in 1992 at Carlos Rosario, known then as Gordon School. When her six-year-old daughter arrived from El Salvador, Gloria was faced with many responsibilities and she couldn’t attend school. In 2003 she returned to Carlos Rosario and studied Workplace Computers and she earned her citizenship in 2006, thanks in part to assistance she received through the school’s citizenship program. This past fall Gloria completed our highest level of English and will be crossing the stage with her classmates at graduation.

Victor

Nicodeme came to the U.S. from Cameroon to reunite with his mother and siblings, and pursue his dreams. Since primary school, he decided that he would become a doctor and achieve the highest level of education. “My main aim is to become a great and respected person. I want to walk around and have people say ‘that’s Nicodeme,’” he says. With his goals in mind, he started taking English and GED classes at the Carlos Rosario School. In a little over two years, he finished from the school’s highest ESL level. He will be graduating this spring from the GED program with his high school diploma equivalent. With the GED under his belt, he hopes to start a pre-med program at a local university, and become a doctor by the age of 27.

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30 Days of Grad: Mater Charter High School

According to a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, about a three out of five undergraduates who are the first-generation college students complete a degree within six years. Further, 44 percent will never earn a degree. These odds paint an unwelcoming picture for students who wish to be first in their families to graduate from college. But for three students at Florida’s Mater Academy Charter School, they didn’t let the possibility of failure cloud their vision of earning a college diploma. In fact, they didn’t even wait until they received their high school diploma to earn a college degree.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald Staff

Meet Edwin Morales, Maria Saenz, and Carlos Eguiluz Rosas. They have each completed their associate’s degree while attending classes at Mater. While their reasons for hopping on the fast track to an additional diploma vary, these students all have big dreams and bright futures. Morales is bound for Brandeis University in Massachusetts with a full tuition scholarship, Saenz has received a Posse Family Foundation Scholarship and is headed to Hamilton College in New York to pursue a major in International Relations and Latino Studies, and Eguiluz Rosas is the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has up to 10 years of college paid for.

Read more about these graduates in this Miami Herald article that further profiles their tremendous successes. Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald Staff

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30 Days of Grad: Laura Garcia

Laura GarciaLaura Garcia started as a fourth grader at Aspire. She found a school that encouraged students to dream big, think about college and start planning immediately. For Laura, it was a welcomed message. Since Laura’s first school day, her goal has been to be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

“Unlike regular public schools, Aspire has pushed its students to be the best in whatever they do. It was not until my first school-wide town hall meeting – where we all chanted, ‘dream it; believe it; achieve it!’ – that I realized how fortunate I was to attend a school that infinitely believed in all their students,” said Laura.

It was people like Mr. Lomas, who teaches sixth-grade English, who really inspired Laura. Mr. Lomas would talk about his side gig of acting and his own dreams. After this introduction into the entertainment world, Laura has discovered his passion. This fall, Laura will be attending Cal State Northridge to study arts and entertainment management as well as theater.

“If I did not grow up attending Aspire Public Schools, I would not be the passionate, driven individual I am today,” said Laura.

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30 Days of Grad: Mario Arteaga

Mario Arteaga was born in McAllen, Texas, and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley his whole life. He is a graduate of IDEA Public Schools and was the President of the Student Council, member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, and National Hispanic Honor Society, and Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook. He is headed to Harvard University in the fall and plans to double major in American History and Biochemistry and then moving on to medical school. He hopes to one day become a surgeon and help save lives. When asked about what has contributed to success, Mario was quick to point out his teachers. “[They] have been a huge influence in my academic interests and have helped me discover new ideas and perspectives I never could have seen on my own,” he said. “Also, my family has been the moral support over the years and my friends have inspired me so much and always been my main source of motivation and self-improvement. It is really thanks to them that I am able to take this next step in my journey.”

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30 Days of Grad: Chris Rowan

chris_rowan_demprep_WebI shouldn’t be standing here today. The odds say I should be at district high school, and if I graduate from high school I would likely be going to a community college. But that is not MY story. My story really started when I emigrated to the United States from Cameroon and was enrolled in the 6th grade.

I was born in Yaounde, Cameroon and came here when I was 12 years old. I moved to New York not knowing a word of English. This made my first years in school a challenge and made standardized testing really difficult. I worked hard with the help of my mother and family to learn English. By the end of the 6th grade I was reading at a 5th grade level. The hope for a better future is what motivated me to become educated. The American Dream.

I was lucky enough to be selected to Democracy Prep through a lottery in the 9th Grade. On my first day, I remember sitting in a classroom called Columbia, confused about what a demerit was and its implications. I questioned the fact that I was not allowed to wear the nail polish color of my choice. I was disoriented about everything involving Democracy Prep and its immense number of rules. This school was so different from anything I was used to. But coupled with my confusion was amazement. What became obvious to me as I sat in Columbia on that hot August morning, four days before any other school in New York City had even started…. I realized something that has been proven again and again over the past four years: this school is a community that will help you, heal you, pick you up when you fall and celebrate your accomplishments. In this school a common trust exists between teachers and students. This bond is far stronger than the one that I had experienced at any of my other schools. I felt this bond with all of my teachers but especially my 9th grade math teacher Mr. Jones and 10th grade math teacher Mr. Lindquist, who is in the audience tonight. These teachers are among those who have helped me survive high school. They have been through my emotional trials… and there have been a few. They have been there when I needed them. And my experience, it’s not unique. You can ask any of my classmates and each one would have a story about a teacher who has changed their lives.

My classmates and I have also created a community. We have experienced our share of joy and of discord since we became the class of 2015 on that August morning, four years ago. One thing we can agree on is that we represent a unit of individuals that have been marginalized throughout American history. We symbolize a unit of individuals who have been victimized and villainized by many. We represent a unit of individuals who are not expected to succeed. We live in a society where the odds are stacked pretty high against us. But one thing’s for sure: Democracy Prep has never allowed that to be a barrier to our success. In fact it was created in order to help prevent that from ever being our reality. With the help and guidance of Democracy Prep we have achieved great things. We have traveled across the world to Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. With the help of Democracy Prep we have been accepted to some of the best schools in the country: University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Williams and Wesleyan to name just a few… proving to the world that we are individuals capable of excellence. Those odds? We beat them. Those stereotypes? We destroyed them.

Graduation is not the end of my story. It isn’t over until I graduate from college four years from now. Frankly, it never ends. The mission of Democracy Prep is that we are prepared for success in the college of our choice and a lifetime of active citizenship. That’s what high expectations looks like.

In a few weeks this chapter of my story, the Democracy Prep Charter High School chapter, will be ending with me graduating as one of the highest achieving scholars in my grade. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin… in Hanover, New Hampshire where, in September, I will be a freshman at Dartmouth College!

Chris Rowan is a senior at Democracy Prep Charter High School. This post is adapted from a speech she delivered at Democracy Prep’s annual gala, which you can watch below or click here.

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Finding the Right Fit

My mother has always expressed to me that she only wants “what’s best” for me, and this is where my charter school story begins. At 14, I had been attending the same public school for eight years, yet I was unfamiliar with most teachers and students. I often felt invisible, especially during the times where I needed help, and I never knew who to talk to. I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my needs. My mother knew there were better choices for me, places where I could thrive academically and socially.

We found that choice in Perspectives Charter School.

Attending Perspectives was the first time I had ever felt comfortable in school. It was smaller, there were students of many different ethnicities, and everyone took pride in wearing their uniforms. The teachers were dedicated – they seemed to care about my learning experience, made sure I stayed on track, and provided additional help whenever it was needed.

The school taught the importance of self-perception, relationships, and productivity, which gave me the tools to lead a productive and successful life. By senior year, I had participated in two business internships, excelled in my classwork and I was accepted to every college I applied to.

After college, I joined NACSA because I believe every child deserves to receive a quality education. I love working alongside colleagues who are also driven by this belief, and who believe in producing A-level work and setting high bars for everyone’s performance – including their own. It feels great to be part of a team working to ensure students like me will have access to choices that work for them. Choices like Perspectives.

 

Brittany Brown is the Communications Associate for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.

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Thirteen Years Later, I’m Still an Ambassador for Charter Schools

This is the story of my senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges in the early aughts. I was like a lot of students from my California hometown, applying for some public UCs and a few private schools in-state and back east (also known as “where it snows,” which was generally regarded with skepticism).

But, unlike most of those aspiring freshmen, I was one of twenty kids graduating from my town’s first charter school.

This presented a challenge, as the vast majority of the country didn’t even know what a charter school was back then, including college admissions personnel. My school knew that in some ways this put me at a disadvantage, as my high school experience was going to be approached by admissions officers with a degree of skepticism.

We were a team, me and my school. We had to win those colleges over and convince them not only of my merits as an applicant, but of the merits of my school and the rigor of my high school education. We had to be ambassadors for the charter school movement.

And now, in my career at NACSA, I’m still that ambassador for quality charter schools—but in a different way.

I’m no longer speaking for one great school, but instead speaking for charter school authorizers. In their role as the gatekeepers of the charter movement, authorizers see the best and the worst of the charter sector. They see those schools that are shining stars and changing lives, and those that let our kids down. And while their identities are varied, authorizers are the common denominator in the charter sector. Every charter school in existence now and every charter school that could possibly exist in the future has a charter school authorizer.

This means the impact of authorizing is huge. If an authorizer is doing its job well, it will set the bar high and only great schools will be allowed to open and remain open year after year.

If I can give one authorizer the tools it needs to do its job well, that might mean one more class of high school seniors is preparing for their first day of college.

And, if through policy change I can ensure all authorizers in a state have the tools they need to do their jobs well, that could change a lot.

 

Amanda Fenton is the Director of State and Federal Policy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.

Rebecca David

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U.S. News and World Report Ranks 28 Public Charter Schools in Top 100

Today, the U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 Best High Schools Rankings, and 28 public charter schools are among the top 100. Moreover, two public charter high schools are ranked in the top 10: BASIS Scottsdale (#2) in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology (#4) in Lawrenceville, Ga.

U.S. News teamed up with RTI International, a North Carolina-based global nonprofit social science research firm, to produce the 2015 rankings. Public high schools were evaluated by their students’ performance on state-mandated assessments, minority and economically disadvantaged student performance, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam results to determine preparedness for college-level work. Public charter school representation in the top 100 of the U.S. News Best High Schools Rankings has grown over the past five years from 18 schools to 28.

The 2015 rankings included nine public charter schools that are new to the top 100 this year. Congratulations to these charter schools for being recognized as the top public high schools in the nation!

Rebecca David is the Research Assistant at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

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High School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Leila from Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in California won the high school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

As people become increasingly aware of the unique learning systems offered by non-traditional institutions, the amount of students enrolled in charter schools continues to grow. Parents nationwide choose to enroll their children in charter schools for a variety of reasons; however, I love my charter school because of its welcoming campus culture, wealth of student opportunities, and heavy emphasis on college preparation.

At Western Sierra Collegiate Academy (WSCA), students are immersed in a rich campus culture that fosters great individual learning and growth. Enjoying high student diversity, WSCA is home to students from many different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whereas diversity has sometimes led to social issues at other schools, at WSCA it is these very cultural differences that make us a stronger and more unified student body. Having attended WSCA for four years, I have definitely been on campus long enough to say that the people at my school truly feel like family. I am extremely grateful to have been able to thrive in an environment that not only respects but wholeheartedly welcomes individuality. When I go to school, I see students who are unafraid to be themselves and express their opinions, and I believe that WSCA’s positive campus culture is what makes this possible.

In addition to fostering a rich social environment, WSCA also offers numerous student opportunities unavailable at other schools. Because of WSCA’s open-minded mission statement, students have the rare chance to participate in competitions on a smaller-scale, potentially opening up doors for the future. Kids are also encouraged to start clubs according to their interests. Because of this, I have been able to found and lead my high school’s community service club and gain valuable leadership skills. Other clubs supported by WSCA include: computer club, international dance club, yoga club, and Pokemon club. Students also have access to extra-learning enrichment sessions and student tutoring should they need any further help in a specific area.

Finally, perhaps WSCA’s most defining quality is the emphasis that is placed on college preparedness. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves with rigorous AP classes and regularly attend the monthly college informational night to learn how to build college transcripts and start early preparations. At the College and Career Center, students can arrange a meeting with the college counselor to discuss future plans and make long-term goals for success. Whenever a senior receives a college acceptance letter, their name and school of acceptance goes on display on the big bulletin board so everyone can share their excitement. Counselors and faculty interact with students on such a personal level (often waving “hello” in the hallways, or asking about their day) that genuinely makes each student feel valued and important.

Western Sierra Collegiate Academy is truly a special school, and I love being a WSCA student for many reasons. However, although the list of WSCA pros is vast, without a doubt, its rich campus culture, broad range of student opportunities, and college-geared mission are primary reasons to love my charter school.